Three Thousand Miles Between Breakfast and Lunch

I had breakfast with the dark rain, not knowing whether there would be a rainbow. The taxi slushed through that rain, just as thoughts sluiced through my mind, mixing senses as if that time was elastic.

We worked our way to the airport, only I sat and thought and daydreamed while others took charge: driving, checking, preparing the aeroplane. The rain and the dark remained, but the sound of the rain became submerged in cheap music from the radio, annoying its way into nature.

I touched the outside of the aircraft for luck. I always do, but never want it known that I do. I was inured to the rain now, cosseted in metal and plastic, doing as I was told as the dark lifted to a new day.

Soon we were above the weather, looking down. Rain looks different from above; more paint dabs in grey and blue and white than something wet and damp and cold. I watched the sunlight turn the grey mist to a shimmering satin cloak to clothe the world below.

Three thousand miles later and the skyscrapers of Manhattan tried to prick the belly of our plane as it looked for somewhere to land. It chose a place where lots of handguns and walky-talkies stood with their matching uniforms. They told us where to go, what to do, but not unkindly, just the routine of a new day.

Like the day before and the day before the day before. I won’t go on listing the days before the days before.

 

The new taxi was yellow like the yoke of an egg. But the driver did not speak, did not try and pierce into my world.

Perhaps I was an alien to him. Perhaps he wanted me to make all the small talk. Perhaps he could not care who or what I was or was not. Perhaps I was just a neat roll of dollar bills, peeling into his palm as the ride terminated. Even the restaurant address was given to the cab controller, my interpreter for the ride.

 

It was a private lunch in a private room, one hundred floors up in a skyscraper that my plane had tried to skim the top off as it came in to land. I went directly to the big picture window, tried to see the street below, but the angle was too sharp, too acute, even when I pressed my face against the pane. Instead I saw shadows and darker patches where lines merged into nothing but the world below, a world I was not visiting today.

I took my face from the window and pressed it no more. It was not the done thing and I did not want people to stare and wonder. So instead I talked about myself and asked questions about others. But I wanted to grow my hair long and then spill it down the mountainside to the street below.

 

But there was no time to grow my hair, for all too soon the journey worked in reverse. There were ‘thank yous’ to be said on both sides, then the yellow-egg taxi with a different driver, but again he had taken a vow of silence.

I won’t detail the return journey: you can read this story backwards if you are interested in schedules and timetables. I am not.

But I had insisted on an early flight out of New York so that I could listen to the rain at breakfast the next day.

And find out whether there would be a rainbow.

The Little People

I was important once. People noticed me first in a crowded room, made a direct path my way, clustered around.

“Ah, there’s Harry Hatcher” they would say.

“Perhaps he will sing for us.”

“Not here, not today, silly.”

And when I heard those words I would burst into song, for I liked to be contrary, to go against expectations.

It was a part of what I had become.

And I liked what I was.

 

Pride was my only sin in those far off days.

Pride and self-conceit.

And a disparaging view of the little people; those who clustered around.

And then there was a little of condescension, combining with arrogance and intolerance, rather more of anger, petti-mindedness. In all they made a delicious cocktail of vice.

But they all were a part of what I was then.

 

I ignored the lump when it first came, thinking it could not happen to one so special, so talented, so favoured; someone who was so needed by others and looked up to.

So I danced with death but in a drunken, ignorant way. I was a tragic actor, expecting at the end of act five to take repeated bows then shed the lumps along with my stage clothes. But my growths would not lie down in the prop trunk between performances.

And then my fine voice cracked, just the merest line on the surface sound, but soon to widen and deepen across the whole vocal range. I stumbled as I paced the boards and then I fell through every television set in the country. As I fell into the blackness of despair I noticed how totally silent my world had become. I could no longer brighten my surroundings with the joy of my voice. Even my sobs and cries were a silent storm, raging but lacking the dimension of sound, so it seemed like I was miming my downfall.

No longer could I change the course of the earth, or thought I could, as our world hurtles through the whole universe.

 

I hated myself for not being special anymore, for being the smallest, meanest voice amongst the little people, the ordinary, the everyday.

But then the little people gathered around, truly clustering. One took my temperature, another administered injections by the hour, or checked the drips. Several were on hand to push the trollies and shift me from bed to wheelchair and back to bed again. Others took out their pinpoint-accuracy scalpels and cut into me while I slept a deep sleep.

They all had careful hands and cheerful voices, even when they were cross or sad, deflated or bitter, they brought something to the room I was living out my life in. Some joked about my broken voice, teasing out of me a tiny smile that grew daily like weeds in an allotment. They leant over me to hear my rasping whisper and jokingly told me to keep my voice down.

These were the little people who had saved their pennies to listen to me sing. Now they tended it and tended also my despair.

 

Now I have a little voice. I can sing a little and join in a choir. I like to sing, but most of all I like to be alive and to be a little person in a welter of humanity.

 

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